Handheld explosives detection devices which are fast, reliable, sensitive and suitable for low cost mass production, are at the end of the pipeline in a new international nanotechnology research project.
There is a strong need for fast, reliable, sensitive and handheld low cost sensors for detection of explosives. Land Mines and left behind ammunition kill or injure thousands of people every year. Also explosives represent a widespread environmental hazard as contaminated drinking water is poisonous even in small doses.
An international research consortium of universities and industry has received a grant of 15 million Danish Kroner from the The Programme Commission on Nanoscience, Biotechnology and IT (NABIIT) for research in miniaturised sensors for explosives detection. The consortium is led by Professor Anja Boisen, Department of Micro- and Nanotechnology at the Technical University of Denmark. The research consortium brings 14.2 million Danish Kroner into the project by itself. The additional NABIIT grant allows at least 5 PhD positions and two PostDocs in nanotech sensor technology to support the research in explosives detection.
Available explosives detection technology uses expensive sensor equipment which is not easily moved around. Alternatively dogs are used to track explosives. Dogs are sensitive, but expensive, difficult to handle and are only able to work for a limited time span.
The intention of the research project is to develop miniaturised sensors for use in a low cost handheld device suitable for mass production. Head of the NABIIT Programme Commission, Lars Mathiassen, is happy to see nanotechnology being applied for security purposes, and emphasises the significance of applying nanotechnology to develop sufficiently small sensors for the detection of explosives.
To obtain maximum precision in the measurement of even very small amounts of explosives, scientists will combine different sensor technologies. The consortium focuses on optimising four available sensor technologies, which in the last phase of the project will be combined to achieve the necessary precision in the explosives detection. The project involves cooperation with a number of Danish research institutions, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (USA) and the sensor technology companies, Unisensor (Denmark) and Serstech (Sweden).